Though the skit was lighthearted, the times chronicled in Segre's book were anything but. Reflected in its subtitle, "A Struggle for the Soul of Physics," the book's chief theme is an examination of a discipline at a major crossroads. The world of physics was undergoing a great transition. By the time of the 1932 meeting, Bohr and others had pieced together the revolutionary ideas of quantum mechanics into a single interpretation that was displacing old certainties and ways of thinking. And the clouds of further revolutions in physics were already gathering. Just two months before the Copenhagen meeting, the neutron was discovered. This would lead directly to the discovery of nuclear fission a few years later and the construction of the first atom bomb a few years after that.
All this would take place against a backdrop of horrors that would surpass even the worst torments of Goethe's tragic figure Faust. Segre's book evocatively captures the mood of 1932, those last days before the world would change forever. Less than a year later, Adolf Hitler would take over of the German government -- an event that would alter the lives of all those present at the Copenhagen meeting.
Segre's award will be presented on March 19, 2009 at the American Physical Society's March Meeting in Pittsburgh. Segre's description of the book can be found on the Web site EDGE: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/segre07/segre07_index.html.
MORE ABOUT "ASTEROID"
Produced as a segment of NOVA scienceNOW and originally aired in October 2006, "Asteroid" poses the question will a doomsday rock the size of the Rose Bowl hit Earth in 2036? The rock in question is called Apophis, an asteroid which astronomers discovered in 2004 was headed dangerously close to Earth -- but how close?
|Contact: Jason Bardi|
American Institute of Physics